Veena Das

Veena Das

Research Professor

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Research Interests: Everyday life, ethics, anthropology and philosophy, urban transformations, poverty, violence, gender, social suffering, aesthetics, South Asia, Europe

Veena Das is a research professor at the Johns Hopkins University. Before her retirement, she was the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology. She has been awarded  honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, University of Edinburgh, University of Bern and Durham University UK, and was elected to Fellowship of the British Academy in 2019. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and sciences, and Academy of Scientists from Developing Counties. She was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009 and the Anders Retzius Award of the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography in 1995 and the Ghurye Award in 1977.   She was awarded the Nessim Habif Prize by the University of Geneva (2014), Sudhindra Chakrobarty Award, University of Calcutta (2020) and GBD Eminent Scholar Recognition by the International Studies Association (2021).

Before joining Johns Hopkins University in 2000, she taught at the Delhi School of Economics for more than thirty years and also held a joint appointment at the New School for Social Research from 1997- 2000. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academy of Scientists from  Developing Countries.

Veena Das’s research covers a range of fields. She is passionately interested in the question of how ethnography generates concepts; how we might treat philosophical and literary traditions from India and other regions as generative of theoretical and practical understanding of the world; how to render the texture and contours of everyday life; and the way everyday and the event are joined together in the making of the normal and the critical. Her work on collective violence and urban transformations has appeared in many anthologies.

Her most recent books are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (2007) Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty (2015), Textures of the Ordinary, Doing Anthropology after Wittgenstein (2020), Slum Acts (2022) and three co-edited volumes, The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy (2014), Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (2015) and Politics of the Urban Poor (Special Issue, co-edited, 2015)Words and Words: A Lexicon for Dark Times (co-edited 2021), Details Matter: Anthropology, Aesthetics, Philosophy (co-edited, forthcoming). Das’s graduate students hold academic positions in ten different countries and have authored prize-winning books based on the dissertations they completed at Delhi and at Johns Hopkins.

Veena Das has taught graduate level courses in which she take students through major concepts (networks, relations, ontology, ethics, the  subjunctive, sovereignty , etc.) embedded in ethnographic texts for the Proseminar; how to find a thematic within a region (Regions course); how to analyze the pre-dissertation fieldwork  so as to write a paper that is anthropological (Methods course). She has taught graduate level courses on Anthropology and Historiography, Performance Theory and Anthropology and Philosophy. She has taught upper level undergraduate courses on the themes of Death and Dying. Violence and Non-Violence, Visual Vocabularies in Medicine, and lower level courses such as “Invitation to Anthropology” Students are expected to do groups work to learn the virtues of co-operation.